Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Fawkes Egg Bag

Magicians are quite familiar with the effect known as The Egg Bag. Most magicians today know the Malini Egg bag, made popular by Max Malini, Charlie Miller and Johnny Thompson. There are other egg bags all of which bring about the same results with only a slight modification in method. But there is an egg bag lost to time which seems to rear it's head every hundred years or so. THE BIG EGG BAG or what I'd like to call The Fawkes Egg Bag.

Sir Isaac Fawkes was a 18th Century Magician from England. I wrote about him once before on this blog, the article can be found here.

The highlight of his act, or the centerpiece of his act was a large egg bag routine. The modern day egg bag is made from 2 squares of fabric about 8 inches by 8 inches sewn on three sides. The bag that Fawkes used was much larger. The modern day bag produces and vanishes a single egg. The Fawkes bag was more involved. Here is a description of his bag routine from The Annals of Conjuring by Sidney W. Clarke.

"He takes an empty bag, lays it upon the table and turns it several times inside out, then commands 100 Eggs out of it, and several showers  of real Gold and silver coins, then the bag begins to swell, several sorts of wild fowl run out of it upon the table."

THAT is a killer piece of magic! The Malini Bag can't do that!!! The Malini bag which is the modern version, is also a stage or platform trick. By all accounts, Fawkes might have been doing this platform or possibly close-up. I'm sure other magicians copied the Fawkes Bag routine and overtime it fell out of fashion. The Fawkes Bag is revealed in the book HOCUS POCUS The Whole Art of Legerdermain by H.Dean 1727. Oddly, the method described only shows producing less than a dozen eggs, so either Fawkes version was different, or he exaggerated a little in his advertisements.

In 1786, David Leendert Bamberg was born. He was the third in the line of the Bamberg Magical Dynasty. According to Harlan Tarbell in Tarbell #5 pg 345, it was David Leendert Bamberg who invented the large type of egg bag.  As Bamberg was born 50 years after Fawkes had died, I'd say that he either 'reinvented' an old favorite with a slightly new way of performing the effect. His son, David Tobias Bamberg also used the large egg bag to great effect in his shows. David Tobias Bamberg was known as Papa Bamberg and was the father of OKITO, Theodore Bamberg.

The Bamberg Egg Bag can be found in Tarbell #5. The method is interesting and after producing 15 eggs it is then followed with the production of a chicken.

Del Adelphia, known as the Cowboy Magician, also performed the large egg bag in the late 1800s. His routine is described in the new book by Mike Caveney called The Conference Illusions, which is book 2 of a set called Mike Caveney Wonders. Del Adelphia was using the Bamberg Bag. The difference in his routine he apparently only produced 8 eggs and then 2 live chickens.  Mike Caveney set about to recreate the effect developed by Del Adelphia but Mike's methodology was quite different from what Del used.

I have always been intrigued with this 'large egg bag' premise. Ever since I first saw the images of Sir Isaac Fawkes in an old magic book, I have wanted to perform this piece. The Tarbell Course kept my interest cooking and then in 2010, I saw Mike Caveney present his version LIVE on the Essential Magic Conference. I say LIVE because I watched the streaming version online before it came out on DVD. IT was indeed fantastic and in addition, I was fooled by the routine.

Well, fast forward to 2014. I am now working on a version of the Large Egg Bag. Mine will hopefully have elements of the all the different versions and with any luck a completely different ending. Below is a photo of the Fawkes Bag created by a master seamstress, my MOM! She has sewn a number of things for me that are all amazing pieces. I'm hoping this particular creation lives up to the skill and artistry she used in making this incredible bag. MY version of the Fawkes Egg Bag will appear in an upcoming episode of The Magic Detective Youtube Show.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Magic Detective Show Season 2 Episode 4

On this weeks episode I share some old Victorian Style Magic. The effect was known as The Magnetized Cards and is a very cool routine that uses cards in a none pick a card fashion. Also, I'll be showing another one of my magician figurines.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Magic Detective Show Season 2 Ep 3

It's time for another episode of the weekly, or semi-weekly, Magic Detective Youtube Show, the five minute online magic history show. This week, I share a new acquisition with you, a piece of apparatus that comes from the book Modern Magic by Prof. Hoffmann. Also, I share one of the large statues from the collection of magician figures! In the coming weeks, I hope to share material from the various Prof. Hoffmann books, as well as Greater Magic, the Tarbell Course and more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Houdini Miniseries-A Tale of Two Movies

I'll begin by throwing all my cards on the table.....This is the movie that could have been and should have been the greatest Houdini movie of all time. I think all of us in the magic community had very high hopes, maybe too high. With the History Channel's track record of fine productions, we certainly expected to get a quality film. Did we? Read on.

As far as acting, set design, costuming, cinematography, all very well done. Some of the attention to detail was incredible, like the recreation of Houdini Posters with Adrien Brody's image.  As far as the story, that's where the wheels come off. The story on Night 1 was so full of errors and fabrications I was truly stunned. But then Night 2, though it still had a few errors, the movie was so much closer to the true story. It was almost as if they had been written by different people.

I'm puzzled by the copying of material from the Tony Curtis/Houdini movie. That movie was mostly fabricated, but still fun. And a number of the elements of that movie find their way into this movie. For example, the wedding night/bedroom scene where Houdini has his wife climb into a box. In the Tony Curtis movie Bess gets into a sawing in half box. In the Adrien Brody movie, Bess gets into a trunk, and it's a little unclear why.

The Original Under Ice Scene
Later in the film there is a bathroom scene where Houdini is in a tub of ice, this is straight out of the Tony Curtis movie. And the whole under the ice escape scene is borrowed as well. In Tony Curtis movie Houdini claims he heard his mother's voice and that is how he found the hole in the ice. In the Adrien Brody movie, same thing. The only difference was in the Curtis movie it was the Detroit River and a packing case escape. In the Brody movie, it was the Mississippi and a Bridge Jump.

There seemed to be less borrowing of ideas on Night 2. But there was some real glossing over of things, like Houdini's film career. It was there and gone very quickly and didn't get the amount of air time it deserved. His exposure shows were not even featured. They did show him at seances proving the mediums were faking things, but that's where it stops. In real life Houdini added the exposure of mediums to his show and from all accounts it was loved by audiences. OH and Theo, man he got the crap end of the deal, almost no air time. As for Houdini's other siblings, not a word.

Then there were some real gems in the movie as well. The scene with Houdini and his doctor near the end, wow. The scene with the Lady Doyle Seance was really quite enthralling. The scene featuring the Cannon Escape, excellent.

So where does that leave me? I didn't really like Night 1 at all. But Night 2 I really enjoyed. Now, please understand, I was watching night one through the eyes of a magician and Houdini historian. Night 2 my expectations were lowered and to my surprise, Night 2 was really quite good except for one thing. I felt a little disappointed when the movie didn't run the full two hours. I understand there is close to 30 minutes of additional footage on the DVD, but I would like to have seen it tonight.

Despite the fact I didn't care for the first nights showing, I can tell you I was in the minority. The movie had huge viewership and those are average everyday lay people.

The Houdini Bloggers saw their number of views shoot up greatly. I think John Cox with WildaboutHoudini.com was in first place hands down with 50,000+ views. I had around 10,000 views and Tom Interval reported he had an increase but didn't reveal any numbers. I'm sure the other Houdini bloggers also saw an increase of traffic on their sites so that is good.

OH, last night before the movie aired, there was an episode of Pawn Stars where Gay Blackstone was featured trying to pawn one of the original(?) Blackstone Vanishing Cages. My article on the Vanishing Bird Cage received 2000 views last night.

I spent a couple hours at lunch today with a friend who couldn't stop talking about Houdini and he is not a magician. Again, great sign. I'm really looking for all the positives from this movie at this point. I'm very grateful for the History Channel for putting this movie together, for the incredible Houdini-like publicity campaign and for all the magic-tie in commercials. The marketing department at A&E did a great job.

Yes, the movie could have been better, but it was not a total loss. Night two did a lot to salvage the movie from a magic history perspective. Remember, the History Channel wasn't making a Houdini Documentary, nor were they making this movie for the magic community. This was for the lay people and by all accounts the lay folks LOVED IT! The movie can only be good for magic and for Houdini's memory. As far as the falsehoods, well that's why the Houdini historians are out there to correct the record.

Finally,  WWHT? What Would Houdini Think? I tend to think, with the exception of a couple scenes, he would have loved the movie. Afterall, he was the original fabricator of Houdini stories!!!!!

Now in the words of Bess Houdini, "The Zero Hour Has Past....I now reverently Turn Out the Light...Good-Night Harry."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The 30 Days of Houdini Celebration is Now Complete

Well, looks like I pulled it off. 30 Days of articles on Houdini. And actually, there were more than 30
articles. Sure, some were fairly light fair, but I also gave some meat in the mix. It sure was fun and it sure put my Houdini skills to the test, both as a researcher and actually as an escape artist. You see, there was something you didn't get to see. During the filming of The Magic Detective, I did a multi-handcuff escape. There were 8 pair of cuffs on my wrists and a pair of thumbscrews clamping my thumbs down. I have not done an actual escape for several years because I had an unusual injury (not related to escaping) that resulted in me being on blood thinning medication. So escapes were out.

But I picked it back up for this one time. I must tell you it felt pretty good and was also a little painful. The darbies I have are really too small for me now and dug into my wrists. The escape went really well. Later in the evening when I went to edit the footage I discovered the handcuff escape was not there. In fact, more than half of the video footage I shot was missing. I apparently must have forgotten to shut off the camera after one of the sequences and then every time I went to shoot a new one, I was actually turning the camera OFF! ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGH!!!

I would have reshot it, but instead chose to let you see the Steel Straitjacket routine from my old Underground Magic Theatre. I'm going to save the handcuff escape for a later date. You see, this is not the last of my Houdini Marathons. I have had plans for some time to do a number of them. The next one will begin sometime in the Spring and will be VERY different from this one. So keep your eyes and ears open for news.

To complete the month, below is the 4 minute trailer for tomorrow's History Channel 2 Part HOUDINI Miniseries. Thank you for reading my 30 Days of HOUDINI and enjoy the trailer and tomorrow, let's all hope for a Fantastic Night of HOUDINI MOVIE MAGIC!!!!

To check out all the 30 Days of Houdini articles, follow this link http://www.themagicdetective.com/search/label/30%20days